Major POKO development hurdle cleared, but Norwalk’s legal battle continues

A judge has denied developer Jason Milligan’s appeal, ending one of three lawsuits involving the POKO development in Norwalk.

A judge has denied developer Jason Milligan’s appeal, ending one of three lawsuits involving the POKO development in Norwalk.

File photo

NORWALK — A judge has dismissed one of the POKO development lawsuits, but the city’s legal battle with the developer will likely extend into a fifth year.

Local real estate broker Jason Milligan, who’s been embroiled in lawsuits over rightful ownership and use of Wall Street properties for about four years, said regardless of recent legal outcomes he will continue to advocate for the betterment of the Wall Street area.

Last month, Judge Charles Lee rejected Milligan’s request for an appeal in a lawsuit he filed against the Norwalk Zoning Commission, among other defendants.

Lee’s decision, handed down on July 22, followed a ruling he made in March against Milligan that has now dismissed the lawsuit, city spokesperson Michelle Woods Matthews said.

“The city’s efforts to revitalize the Wall Street neighborhood took another step forward,” Woods Matthews said. “This is the latest in a series of decisions that have found no merit in Milligan’s attempts to stop this project from moving forward. On behalf of Norwalk residents, the city and Redevelopment Agency will continue to work hard to move this project forward as planned.”

In the appeal, Milligan argued that a section of the zoning regulation is “unconstitutionally vague,” claiming it violated the state’s general statutes’ uniformity requirement. He argued the process in which the Zoning Commission approved the Wall Street Place site plan in 2021 violated the statute, according to court documents.

“More than two years ago, the city and Redevelopment Agency went through a public process and negotiated changes to an existing development agreement with the developer, JHM Group and the current property owner, Citibank, that would allow for the new Wall Street Place Project to move forward,” Woods Matthews said. “Now that these lawsuits are behind us, city leaders are eager to work with JHM Group and Citibank on next steps.”

While the judge ruled against Milligan in the initial hearing of the case and in the request for an appeal, Milligan can still seek an Appellate Court decision.

The case, which was filed in February 2021, was the latest of three lawsuits involving Milligan and city agencies over the Wall Street project.

In May, the city invested an additional $144,000 for the legal fees involving the Milligan lawsuits along with some tax appeals, but Norwalk corporation counsel Mario Coppola was confident at the time the litigation would conclude by the end of 2022.

The first of the Milligan lawsuits dates back to 2018 and was filed by the city and Redevelopment Agency against the developer and others, according to the state judicial database.

A hearing was scheduled to be held Friday, according to the database. Jury selection and a trial in the case had previously been planned for September, but have been pushed to March 2023.

The second lawsuit was filed by Milligan against the city in May 2019. The Redevelopment Agency and the city were originally named as plaintiffs, but the city was removed from the lawsuit in June 2019, according the judicial database.

Norwalk Board of Estimate and Taxation last week agreed to transfer an additional $4,165 from the “wages and salary” account to the “other professional purposes” account to pay Shipman & Goodwin, the lawyers working with the city on the Milligan cases, according to city documents.

“I will continue to rebuild Wall Street. I am by far the largest property owner and taxpayer in the area. I ask for no city money. No special tax deals. I just ask for the rules to be simplified and to be left alone,” Milligan said. “The lawsuits have gone on too long and wasted too much money. All parties are scheduled for mediation on Oct. 20. Let’s hope it is successful. I will go in with optimism and an open mind.”